Innovation Spotlight: Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation at AppleTree Early Learning
Three years ago, AppleTree Early Learning partnered with the Early Childhood Innovation Network to bring mental health consultants from Georgetown’s WISE Center into their Washington, D.C., early education centers. Today, the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) program provides on-site consultation services for teachers and school leaders who serve children and families with a range of educational, social and emotional needs.
“The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program was one of ECIN’s first pilots,” says Erin Mathis, Ph.D., ECIN’s AppleTree ECMHC project manager, and one of the original school-based consultants for the project. “Like HealthySteps, which reaches parents entering through pediatric clinics, ECMHC provides mental health supports to the teachers of young children in the school setting, another adult who has a big impact on a child’s life.”
In its pilot (2016-2017), ECMHC unfolded organically over the course of the school year, with the two consultants, Dr. Mathis and Jenya Gaskin, Psy.D., each assigned to one school. In the next year, the program expanded to six schools with more structured, time-delineated support. In 2018-2019, after evaluation, the program returned to a flexible design that relies on teacher, principal, and consultant collaboration to determine needs, amount of time needed for support, and program structure at each school. This collaborative approach will continue in the 2019-2020 school year when ECMHC expands to eight AppleTree schools and brings on an additional mental health clinician, who will be a full-time AppleTree employee.
As the program has grown and changed, the team has collected a few key takeaways:
Trust is key: If there’s no trust between the teachers, principal and mental health consultant, there’s no progress.
Responsive timelines: Logical start points and conclusion points should be based on each unique case not a predetermined calendar.
Give principals choices: Allow each principal to opt in to added services like trauma-informed care training sessions for teachers or parent workshops based on their specific needs.
“This partnership brings skills and strategies into our schools that help us get our kids on the right path and moving forward as early as possible,” says Charlie Crabtree, principal at the AppleTree Early Learning Douglas Knoll School.
“There isn’t a lot of research available about the nuts and bolts of an early childhood mental health consultation program,” Dr. Mathis points out. “ECMHC looks very different in different places. Our goal is to find a structure that really works for AppleTree and for the children and families of Washington. By applying ECIN’s rapid-cycle evaluation approach to evaluate our outcomes and continuously refine our model, we hope to articulate the concrete steps that helped us succeed, so people can learn from our work and apply our outcomes to help more teachers, students and parents in need.”
New Impact Stories: Parent Cafés
Kora Wooten and Gladys Mathis are parents who shared their stories about how Parent Cafés’ safe space and collaborative environment gave them new tools to build resilience in themselves and their families.
ECIN Speaks at...
Mayor Bowser’s Maternal & Infant Health Summit
The National Maternal & Infant Health Summit held on September 10, 2019 gathered elected officials, health officials and DC community residents to explore strategies that improve perinatal health and address racial disparities in birth outcomes. The ECIN team participated in two breakout sessions at the event focused on promising models for care delivery, and how these programs might fuel future efforts.
Sarah Barclay Hoffman, Dominique Charlot-Swilley, Leandra Godoy, Jessica Nash, and Hope Rhodes discussed the landscape of infant and early childhood mental health in the District during the session called Maternal & Infant Mental Health Landscape: Taking Steps to Improve Practice & Policy. They identified potential resources and opportunities for policy change and shared information about HealthySteps DC.
Lee Beers, LaDon Love, and Justine Wu also presented at a session called Perinatal and Early Childhood Behavioral Health and Policy: Creating Change Together that highlighted the DC Pritzker Children’s Initiative (DC PCI), a city-wide, multi-disciplinary collaboration formed to develop a policy and action agenda with four key areas of focus that will increase the number of children ages 0-3 who receive high quality health, social-emotional and developmental support services.
Events and Announcements
During the 2019 Community Health Improvement Week, the HealthySteps DC team received a Community Health Improvement Award from the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National. The team was recognized for their tireless work in support of children and families. Kudos to all!
Don’t forget to check ECIN’s Jobs page for the latest employment opportunities at our partner organizations.